Finding Meaning in Work

In late August, I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer for a Work Learn position. After being interviewed over Skype in the dingy corner of the Harvard Museum of Natural History and submitting references, relief and ecstasy were two dominant emotions on my mind. Having been employed in a small bookstore where I got paid in check and was often sent home early due to a consistent lack of customers, any position with a scrap of legitimacy was enough to get me excited.

Indeed, for the first few days, I was eager to learn and worked fastidiously, dutifully leaving my phone in my bag and switched to silent mode. After a week, however, I began listening to podcasts. As most of my duties were secretarial in nature and did not require immense brainpower, having an auditory distraction was not particularly damaging to my level of productivity. The real problems began to develop when I failed to find meaning in the repetitive and mechanical tasks in which I was engaging, leading to frequent binges of articles on New York Times. The work was so predictable and basic that there is no way anyone could fail at accomplishing it, which induces a sense of comfort, but also boredom.

Personally, I prefer to find meaning in and define my life by the challenges I overcome. It is my nature to not judge success by perseverance and commitment, but by how often I try (and possibly fail at) new activities. This can be problematic (see: taking different dance lessons for a year and stockpiling jazz and ballet shoes), but the resulting variety is exhilarating. My job, however, while seeming resume-perfect on the surface, just doesn’t provide me with the same euphoria as the prospect of tackling a backgrounder for Model UN or reading about the history of ballet.

Before this school year ends, I would like to reach the stage where repetition at work is peaceful and meaningful, just so I can experience that kind of “blank” contentment. Otherwise, I’ll simply have to come to terms with my capricious personality, and try to determine how to best use it to my advantage, a topic for another post.

A Reflection on Hard Choices

“Why are you choosing to live a harder life?”

This has been a question repeatedly posed by my father regarding my decision to transfer from Sauder to Science, a contentious topic in my household. For him and many other members of my family, a degree in business with Sauder written on it in gold calligraphy followed by a career in accounting is the epitome of success. It is a safe and “easy” route, with an abundance of job opportunities and relatively few required qualifications.

In contrast, my desire to transfer into Science with vague ideations of attending medical school (I purchased MCAT books a few months ago; most of them are still in mint condition) seems as flippant as a toddler scrawling outside of thick black lines in a colouring book. I have been repeatedly told that I am throwing away an opportunity for which many others would kill. Judging by the number of hands in the air at a mentorship session for twelfth graders when asked, “Who is applying to Sauder?”, I am, indisputably, enduring the dream of many.

Internally, as well, I am barraged with doubt over whether or not I will regret this ephemeral decision I made in my youth two, ten, twenty, fifty years from now, Sometimes, I am forced to wonder if choosing Science is a way of silent rebellion against my family’s traditional ideals, against their questions regarding my potential boyfriends rather than my academic or extracurricular work. When doubts like these seep in, I attempt to reaffirm the authenticity of my decision by making a list of what I hope to gain from my future career:

  1. Opportunities to collaborate and innovate with others
  2. Opportunities to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and, by extension, communities
  3. Opportunities to be involved in a globally connected field that transcends political borders
  4. Opportunities to be humbled by the accomplishments of others

Being involved in business, to varying extents, historically conflicts with all of these expectations. Perhaps I am biased and naive, but I intrinsically do believe that Science is the correct route for me, despite the ulterior motives that are suspected to be clouding my judgment. Getting accepted into medical school will certainly be challenging, but dragging myself through an unwanted degree for four years is simply impossible and unbearable.

Slacking Off

During lunch today, my friend, Pearl (the victim of my death grip in the photo), suggested trying slacklining outside of the Nest. Having minimal balancing abilities, I was skeptical of whether or not I will be able to survive such a physically demanding activity. However, ultimately, I conceded to her enthusiasm and grudgingly went outside for the first time in three years.

The experience was, needless to say, extremely daunting. There were already professionals out on the rope, jumping on the slackline and doing tricks involving throwing each other off balance. The best I could do was hold on to a tree, grab Pearl, and scream, “Take a photo!!!!” over and over again until I heard the click of my phone’s camera. I managed to inch forwards about a meter before giving up and clumsily jumping down from the line.

There is nothing remotely deep or meaningful about this story, except for the fact that I almost killed myself.

Eating with Strangers

Welcome, everybody to the first ever episode of Eating with Strangers. I’m your host Cathy, and tonight’s featured event is the Harvest Feastival, which was as delicious as its name is punny.

Held on the first day of Autumn, the Harvest Feastival hosted hundreds of hungry guests, including UBC President Santa Ono and his family. Purchasing a ticket grants access to a six course meal, as well as several artsy after-dinner activities. Although the portioning was confusing for salads and entrees (is this tiny bowl really supposed to serve all six of us?!?), the dishes were delicious and visually appealing nonetheless, using ingredients fresh from the UBC Farm. The desserts were marvelous, causing a ten minute delay in their entrance to my stomach as everyone fought to snap pics for Instagram.

However, the meal would have still been largely forgettable if not for the social aspect. For those of you who bother with reading my blog, you would know that I take great pride in being completely and utterly antisocial. Therefore, the prospect of sitting at a table and sharing food with four other people (I managed to coerce a friend into joining me), did not give me the greatest pleasure. However, I was surprised to find how easy it was to form bonds (and Facebook friendships) during the evening, although the fact that photographers assumed we were all bosom buddies doubtlessly helped (seriously, though, I probably have more photos with strangers than I do with friends at this point).

The highlight of the event, though, was visiting the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, which was free with the Feastival wristband. I like to pretend that I understand art, and that I am more cultured than I really am, so wandering around an art gallery while murmuring mildly appreciative noises is my idea of a good time. The exhibits were fascinating, and, because I don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll just leave it at that. It’s definitely worth a visit on a rainy afternoon (and Vancouver gets a lot of those).

An Average SPARKling Weekend

Over the last weekend, first year BCom students conveyed at school in ludicrously named cliques to compete for the Sauder Cup. After only three days of real school, we were expected to be friendly and comfortable with each other, like reunited bosom friends. The fact that my orientation leader talked about how she met all of her baes at The Spark a few years ago only increased the pressure to walk away with a lifelong partner by the end of the event.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Being not exactly the most outgoing person, I wasn’t exactly inclined to open my hearts to strangers. Yet, despite knowing my personal limitations, it was disappointing to not find anyone to whom I was immediately drawn while everyone else partnered up. While I was not exactly antagonized or isolated by anyone, and the group dynamic was typical of the chemistry between ten keen first years, the experience was lacklustre at best for most of the day.

Then came the mosh pit.

I hate mosh pits, and any other environment that requires me to touch other people (the photographer for my high school group photos had to coax my friends and I into putting our arms around each other). Needless to say, I did not have a good time and went home early.

On Monday, I was nervous. In my mind, everyone would be sitting with their bff’s from The Spark, leaving me to be the weird antisocial loner. However, the phenomenon I observed was completely different. Sure, people seemed to be more at ease with each other, but no one was desperately clinging to the one person they met during the weekend. As the week progressed, more and more friendships formed outside of the limits of the groups at The Spark, until all of the bullshit expectations crammed into the weekend were forgotten to be replaced by the slow process of creating real relationships. Although I was not amused by my lucklessness in finding a soulmate, I, after two weeks, am now somewhat confident that I will not have my face be eaten by my cats after I die.

AMS BBQ or Ongoing Construction?

As the second week of university draws to a close, the only incentives preventing me from dropping out to become a shepherd in the Himalayans are the free events happening all over campus. This, of course, includes trial classes sponsored by UBC Rec, which will hopefully prevent me from dying a premature death from eating too many bowls of ramen. Today, after a hectic week of work (I may or may not blog about this later) and classes, I went to alleviate my stress through Cycle Yoga, which is exactly what suburban moms go to between PTA meetings. After sitting through an introduction to limits in Math (What happened to Calculus being a pre-requisite???), I was ready to be challenged.

Indeed, the class was intense. I only sweat when the temperature goes above 30°C, but, after spinning (riding a stationary bike) for thirty minutes, my body was a storm cloud in Sri Lanka during the wet season before global warming ruined everything. Maybe it was the fact that the last time I exercised was in July, or maybe it was just muscle atrophy from sitting in class all day, but my thighs were burning by the end of the session. I had certainly burned enough calories to warrant eating a hamburger.

Speaking of mysterious meat squished between bread, the AMS BBQ is tomorrow.

When Hailee Steinfeld sang, “I didn’t know that I was starving ’til I tasted you,” she was certainly referring to hotdogs (or something with a similar shape to a hotdog). Walking from the Recreation Centre, I saw a multitude of misshapen tents and awkwardly placed fencing outside the Nest. At first, I thought nothing of it, considering the prevalence of construction all over campus. Upon closer consideration, however, I realized that the mysterious people were preparing for the BBQ happening tomorrow. From how the AMS events have gone so far, I’m certain that the event will be fantastic.

Drunk on Farmade

Aside: The title of this post is based on how ‘Farmade’ and ‘Gatorade’ rhyme with each other. I did not actually get drunk at the event.

Farmade was exciting for two reasons:

1. Having never been to UBC Farm before, this was a reason for me to visit.

2. I finally get to explore beyond the confines of the main campus, where all of my classes take place.

Although the journey there was a thirty minute walk, my surroundings were as entertaining as buildings and roads can be. There was the Greek Village, where frat boys were preparing for a party that night. It’s rather fitting that Panhellenic House, the building hosting the sororities, neighbours the living quarters of fraternities. It must make the ‘Walk of Shame’ the following morning much more convenient.

Following the bright signs, I strolled through the Wesbrook Village and found myself in an empty pavilion. Seeing no more signs, I had the irrational thought that the event had been cancelled, and that my arduous trek had been for nothing. Realizing life is a meaningless affair with the prospect of encroaching darkness being the only constant, I fell to my knees, arms outstretched towards this sky hoping for a sign… a sign… A SIGN.

A few meters away from me, taped to a pole, was an inconspicuous poster fluttering innocently in the wind. I dusted myself off and followed the string of arrows until I heard country music blaring from beyond the trees. However, contrary to the cowboy wannabes and bad Western accents I was expecting to find, I stumbled upon a community of individuals dedicated to sustainability with regards to everything from food to energy. Eating my low-impact, locally sourced hamburger, I strolled from booth to booth, admiring the achievements and ideas of the different student organizations.

Overall, Farmade was an unforgettable experience that gave me a chance to explore the UBC campus, as well as enlightened me to the modern concepts of farming beyond just tilling the fields.

Bag Full of Condoms

When I was presented with the opportunity for a free AMS First Week Bag in return for blogging about my experiences, my reaction was, “HELL YEAH!” After all, from where else am I supposed to get a package of ten condoms for free? (I’m just kidding; the only thing going down on me are my grades.)

Aside: I will probably be receiving an email in the near future about keeping my posts PG-13.

Anyways, throughout the next week or so, I will be reporting on my experiences at Farmade, Yoga at the Nest, and the AMS Welcome Back Barbecue. Although I am typically apathetic to large gatherings, university, as every older student/faculty member/inspirational speaker has told me so far, is about stepping outside of comfort zones. Personally, I interpret this statement as the cliche rambling of someone speaking based on only their eventual success, but I suppose, “Life will suck until you grow a pair,” is not a quote that should be bellowed in a school auditorium.

Furthermore, I see these events as opportunities to explore possible interests. Farming and yoga are, unfortunately, not yet an integral part of my life. Gardening, for me right now, is pruning and watering my Venus Flytrap; and yoga is a gateway to the deeper recesses of my mind, which is a dark and scary place. Hopefully, in the coming week, I will experience enough to be able to make informed decisions about what possible interests I should continue to pursue.

With The Spark (Sauder orientation weekend), a new job at UBC Press, an endless list of First Week events, and new Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers videos being posted every day, my life is hectic AF. Let’s just hope that the start of my university life goes better than the Republican National Convention.

Chanting is not Only for Satanic Cults

If you were to look up the antonym of ‘school spirit’ in a dictionary, a picture of my high school would be directly under the heading. I think it was the only school, in the history of formal education and perhaps humankind, to host a completely unsuccessful Sports Week. Seriously, we only had about twenty people come play Capture the Flag at lunch. Our spirit weeks had more saggy, pitiful posters than actual participation in the themed events, and Math Club attracted a larger crowd than Student Council.

At UBC, however, students actually put effort into displaying school pride. The most obvious form of this are the chants each faculty has. In fact, even as I am writing this, the Sauder rhymes refuse to leave the deep recesses of my brain, haunting me with every breath I take. We were yelling it so frequently outside the Chan Centre that someone in my Imagine Day group muttered, “This is why every other faculty hates us.”

Even more baffling and overwhelming was the pep rally, where I thought I was having a stroke since I could not decipher anything anyone was saying. Ear drums may have been important to survival at some point in human history, but I wouldn’t know; I’m not a Science student, after all.

In addition to the shouting and waving of phone flashlights and standing (which was a relief towards the end since my group was sitting on the floor. I literally hit rock bottom.), the whole hour felt like the fevered dream of a guy so drunk he had to fake his own mugging (#LochteGate). Playing the ‘Imperial March’ while welcoming faculty directors? Witnessing a cello mesh with an electric guitar? I would not have been surprised if kittens fell from the ceiling wearing Donald Trump masks.

All in all, though, this day made me realize how fortunate I am to go to such a diverse and welcoming university. Despite its foreignness, an overwhelming dose of school spirit is a welcome change.

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